Photos courtesy NHRA

NHRA stunner: U.S. Army to end sponsorship of Don Schumacher Racing, NHRA after this season

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In a stunning announcement, the National Hot Rod Association and Don Schumacher Racing revealed Sunday that the U.S. Army, which has been one of the sport’s largest and most high-profile primary sponsors for nearly 20 years, will end its relationship with both the sport and team after this season.

The Army has been primary sponsor for eight-time Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher for nearly two decades, co-primary sponsor on Antron Brown’s Top Fuel dragster for nearly a decade, and became a part-time primary sponsor this season for Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett.

All three drivers race for DSR.

Here’s the official announcement:

U.S. ARMY REDIRECTING ITS MARKETING EFFORTS FOR 2019
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (July 8, 2018) – The U.S. Army has decided not to renew its sponsorship with Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) due to a reallocation of its marketing budget. DSR is actively pursuing a strong brand to partner with the team and its roster of sponsors and personalities who have contributed to 325 NHRA national event titles and 16 championships.
“The U.S. Army has been a great partner of Don Schumacher Racing for nearly two decades,” said team owner Don Schumacher. “It has been a mutually beneficial relationship with the U.S. Army instilling the mental, physical and emotional strength of the U.S. Army Soldier in all of us. We remain extremely proud of our representation of the U.S. Army and its brave Soldiers who are 100 percent committed to our country. We will continue to activate on behalf of the U.S. Army for the remainder of 2018 while showcasing our acumen to future partners looking to inject their brand with the power and precision that has earned DSR more than 320 wins and 16 championships.”
“The U.S. Army has been an incredibly loyal and longtime supporter of NHRA Championship Drag Racing and we are sad to see them go, especially during a time in which NHRA is experiencing so much success,” said NHRA president Glen Cromwell. “One of the most significant elements of our partnership with the U.S. Army has been its sponsorship of NHRA’s Youth and Education Services program, which hosts approximately 30,000 high school students each year across the country and will continue to do so. Not only does this program serve our communities by inspiring students to pursue STEM-related career opportunities, but it also acts as a powerful recruiting tool for vocational education programs.
“The NHRA Mello Yello Series reaches millions of fans each year at its 24 national events which are each broadcast on FOX Sports. We’ve had seven sellout days so far this season and all of our metrics are up. We are excited about NHRA’s future and look forward to welcoming new partners to our sport.”
The U.S. Army’s current commitments will remain through 2018.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.